Numbers 9:15-17 "Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle, until morning. 16 So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp."
When God revealed Himself to His people throughout the Old Testament, such manifestations to them are referred to as "theophanies". Oftentimes those "theophanies" are specified to be particular "cameo" appearances of God the Son before His incarnation in what theologians call "Christophanies". One such "Christophany" is that of Jesus appearing as "the pillar of fire".
As we said already, in the Old Testament, God manifested Himself as a pillar of fire (and cloud by day), shining light and providing protection for the people of God. In the New Testament, Jesus states He is the “Light of the World”. In today's post, we will explore these truths and how they relate to your life.
How we connect the theophany of "The Pillar of Fire" to being a "Christophany" or Old Testament revelation of God the Son
Now in brief, we know that Jesus Christ, the "Light of the World", had made prior appearances in the Old Testament in such phenomena as the "Pillar of Fire". How do we know? For starters, the "pillar of fire" manifestation is closely connected to the Feast of Passover, as seen in Exodus 13 and 14 and in Numbers 9. The Passover Feast and its central focus on the lamb given on behalf of the first-born in every Jewish home is a key Old Testament theme. The "lamb" or "lamb of God" motif is spelled out numerous times in both Old Testament prophecy and New Testament revelation (see Isaiah 53; 1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus was deemed "the Lamb of God" by John the Baptist in John 1:29. We find the timing of His crucifixion to correspond with the timing of Passover, including His commemoration of the Lord's Supper at the end of all four Gospels.
The connection between Passover and the appearance of this "Pillar of Fire" should be noted. But also notice another indicator that the "Pillar of Fire" is likely an Old Testament appearance of the Son. In Numbers 9, we find a summary of how the "Pillar of Fire" (and Cloud) led the people through their wilderness wanderings. One of the three major feasts in Israel to which all Jews were commanded to attend was the Feast of Tabernacles (see Leviticus 23:39-44). Tabernacles commemorated
the wilderness wanderings of the Jews under the leadership of Moses through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
In John 8 we find Jesus calling Himself "The Light of the World" in verse twelve of that chapter. The Apostle John's frequent use of the imagery of "light" in both his Gospels, letters (1 John) and the Book of Revelation (see especially Revelation 1 and 21-22) point to Christ as God incarnate.
Such Old Testament teachings and truths aid in connecting the appearances of the "pillar of fire" to being the ministry of the Son of God to His people. In closing today, we can note two quick thoughts concerning Jesus Christ as the "Pillar of Fire".
1. He clearly led the people. Numb. 9:15-16
Jesus Christ led the people of God in those wilderness wanderings. Nehemiah 9:12-13 records these words by Nehemiah some one-thousand years after those events: “And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, and with a pillar of fire by night to light for them the way in which they were to go.
13 “Then You came down on Mount Sinai, And spoke with them from heaven; You gave them just ordinances and true laws, Good statutes and commandments."
Jesus in the New Testament is revealed as the "Light of the World", revealing Himself as the Savior and Lord of all those who follow Him by grace through faith. New Testament passages such as Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds us to "fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith."
2. He covered and protected the people. Numb. 9:17-23
As we see the Son of God manifesting Himself as the "Pillar of Fire" by night, He also appears as the "Pillar of Cloud" by day. God's people wandering in the wilderness never had to worry about sunburn, exposure and heat in the day. Nehemiah 9:21 states - “Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell." At night, the Son of God illuminated their camp, protecting them from wild animals, fear and exposure. Christ shielded the people. In Hebrews 11:26 we read of Moses - "considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward."
Christ is indeed the believer's Shepherd, Lord, King and Defender that protects, covers and wards off any faith-destroying attacks of the enemy. We are not promised immunity from physical trials nor trouble free-existence in this world. We know that Christ will shield all of those who are truly His from their faith being destroyed (see 1 Peter 1:3-5).
We find that Jesus as the "Pillar of Fire" clearly led His people and covered them. Such truth informs the background to Jesus' statement in John 8:12 regarding Him being "the Light of the World". May we find comfort under the light of His presence as He leads us through this world.